How to Revive Wilted and Drooping Hydrangeas

Are your hydrangeas wilting or drooping and you aren't sure why? There are a few common causes for wilted and droopy hydrangeas. In this article, gardening expert and hydrangea enthusiast Jill Drago walks through why your hydrangeas are droopy or wilting, and how to address the situation to revive your beautiful blooming shrubs!

Wilted and Drooping Hydrangea Flowers

Hydrangeas are the stars of gardens all over the world. They are fairly easy to grow, and their beautiful, colorful flowers have the ability to steal the show. From the full smooth hydrangea to the interesting lacecap, these flowers are an obvious choice for so many gardens. But what happens they begin to wilt, or droop unexpectedly?

There are a number of reasons why your hydrangeas may very suddenly droop or wilt. Thankfully, most of the reasons this happens are easily remedied with a small change or two to your plant care routine. So, where do you start?

You’ll start by making a few simple changes, which may include moving the plant’s location, adjusting the fertilization schedule, or modifying the watering amount. Read along to learn about why your hydrangea may be wilting or drooping, and how to help them pop back and look better than ever!

Incorrect Watering

Gardener Watering from Overhead
Hydrangeas need watering if their leaves droop and begin to dry out.

If you walk out into your garden midday and notice that your leaves have begun to droop towards the ground your hydrangea could use a drink. They have large leaves that can dry out quickly when the temperatures rise.

The way that they communicate to us that they are thirsty is by drooping their leaves. When hydrangeas are dry they begin to stress out. They use what energy they have to feed the roots, and not on keeping the leaves and flowers looking perky and green.

On the other hand, the symptoms of overwatering look surprisingly similar to underwatering. The only difference may be that the leaves will yellow and begin to fall off. You may also notice smaller flowers or no flowers at all.

Overwatering can lead to root rot, which will eventually lead to plant death. You may notice root rot by wilting that does not respond to a change in your watering.

How to Fix

Increase Your Watering

This is a very easy fix. Provide a thorough watering when you notice this symptom. Typically hydrangeas will pop back once they are out of the sun and have had a chance to recover. They take about two inches of water per week, depending on where you live and what your weather is like this amount can differ.

When you are watering, do your best to water the base of the plant. Spraying water at dried out leaves will not do anything to help rehydrate your plant. Watering the leaves can also make your plants more susceptible to diseases.

Stop Watering

Give them a break from watering if you think you may have overwatered. You should notice some improvement in a few days.

Check Soil Conditions

This applies to both overwatering and underwatering. Hydrangeas prefer well draining soil. If you have clay soil, it could be holding too much water around the roots. If you have sandy soil the water could be draining too quickly. Adding compost to your soil will help aid in this issue, while also giving your soil excellent nutrients to keep your plants happy.

If this seems to be a recurring problem you may want to rethink your watering schedule. Established plants will only need a heavy watering once or twice a week, and a little more as needed during hot stretches of weather.

Too Much Sun

Purple blooming shrub in full sun
Since most cultivars prefer shade, planting them in the sun can lead to wilting.

Most hydrangeas really like to be planted in partial sun. If you have planted a shade-loving hydrangea in the sun you may notice some wilting.  They love the morning sun for this very reason, they get the sunlight they require before the temperatures rise and have the rest of the afternoon to recover in the shade.

This wilting can be caused by a combination of dehydration and heat stress. If your hydrangea has not been watered and appears to be drying out to the point of no return, you may notice that the leaves as well as the flowers will begin to look a bit crispy.

How to Fix

Transplant

If you have a partial shade loving cultivar you will want to find an area in your garden that receives four to six hours of morning sun. This will give your plant enough sun to produce strong stems and bountiful flowers. You will want to hold off on transplanting until the fall, or when the weather makes a turn for the cooler.

Plant a Panicle

If you don’t have any shady spots in your garden but are craving hydrangeas, you should give panicles a try. They love full sun and will tolerate six hours or more of sunshine per day.

Your Flowers Are Heavy

Smooth White Flowers Hanging Low
Smooth hydrangeas have very large flowers with weak stems, so you can notice drooping branches after a rain shower.

Hydrangea arborescens, also known as smooth hydrangeas, have very large flowers with stems that may be too weak to hold them up. Drooping flowers are common sights after heavy rainfalls. While smooth hydrangeas are the poster child for drooping branches and flowers, it can happen with other varieties as well.

As hydrangeas have gotten more popular over the years they have been hybridized to have stronger stems to support these massive flowers. But even with hybridization, big blooms can still pull them downwards, especially as your hydrangeas get bigger.

How to Fix

No Fix Needed!

While pruning your Hydrangea arborescens, which bloom on new wood, you can leave some of the older growth in place to support the new growth with those large flowers.

Over Fertilizing

Fertilizer Granules in Paper Bag
Overfeeding can lead to leggy growth and excess nitrogen, which can cause wilting.

If you over-fertilize, it can cause leggy growth. Leggy growth is typically weak and flexible. An overabundance of nitrogen can cause flowers to wilt and droop as well.

While the right fertilizer formula applied at the appropriate times make these shrubs flourish, too much nitrogen can take away from the flower production of the hydrangea and in turn, will push vegetative growth. This can cause the stems to grow longer than expected which can become weak when the heavy flowers are blooming.

Hydrangeas should not be fertilized after August. When you feed your plants that late in the season you run the risk of them pushing extra growth that could weaken the stems, and also could put the shrub at risk for winter damage. If you are applying compost to the soil, you may do this at any time in the year.

How to Fix

Soil Test

Before you add anything to your soil, it is recommended to perform a soil test. You may not need to fertilize your shrubs at all. Soil tests will give you an overview of the health of your soil including the pH and any nutrient deficiencies.

Keep an eye on your fertilizer schedule. Hydrangeas really benefit from spring feeding.

Transplant Shock

Gardener Transplanting Plants in Garden
Wilting of a fresh transplant can be caused by transplant shock.

If you are noticing wilting and/or drooping on a hydrangea that you have recently planted or moved from another area in your garden, your plant may be experiencing transplant shock. 

Hydrangeas are resilient plants, however, they do not like to dry out. Moving them from one spot or pot to another could give the roots just enough time to dry out, resulting in some wilting. Transplant shock is easy to fix by following some easy gardening practices, and the plant should make a full recovery.

How to Fix

Plant at the Right Time

Transplanting is best done at the same time as planting a nursery plant. Spring or fall are the recommended seasons because the weather is more temperate. I like to plant in the spring if possible because I know I won’t forget to keep the newly planted shrubs watered.

Use Good Planting Practice

Before you plant your shrubs, give them a good watering either in the pot, or in the ground in their current home. This will help prevent any transplant shock by giving them the chance to have a drink before you move them. This also makes digging them out of the ground a little easier.

Water the Plant

Once your plants are planted, or after you notice the transplant shock give your plants many small waterings. Give them a chance to take up the water, without overwhelming the soil with water which would damage the roots.

Your Potted Hydrangea Needs a Transplant

Moving Plants To Different Pots
If you notice that your hydrangea is drooping in a pot, it may not have enough room to grow! Just transplant it into a larger pot.

If you have been keeping your hydrangea in a container and notice drooping, this is a good sign that your plant needs a bigger pot. They are vigorous rooters because of their desire for water.

If it has been a while since you have planted your pot, or maybe if you planted your hydrangea in a smaller pot, the plant can become root-bound. Root-bound plants will have their roots tangled around each other and wrapping around the soil and becoming restricted by the container. This will lead to a thirsty hydrangea, which will cause the plant some stress.

How to Fix

Repot

Give your potted hydrangea a good soaking, and once it has had a chance to drink, tip your hydrangea out of its current pot and massage the roots around. Prepare your new, larger, pot by cleaning it, making sure there is a drainage hole, and adding fresh potting soil. Then, transplant into its new home and water it again.

Final Thoughts

Take solace in knowing that drooping and wilting in your hydrangeas is usually an easy fix. In most cases, it won’t cause your plant to die. However, you may end up needing to locate them to a more suitable location. Hydrangeas are low maintenance plants that are generally quite happy if they are planted in the right conditions and receiving the right amount of care. Happy growing!

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